Rather than shame poor kids, cafeteria worker quits

Sometimes you just have to stand for something.

Stacy Yannazzo Koltiska, a school cafeteria worker in Pennsylvania’s Canon-McMillan School District, stands for something: feeding kids without shaming the poor.

She resigned last week after school policy forced her to take away the hot food of a kid who had overdrawn his school lunch account. The kid got a cheese sandwich instead.

“He comes up in the line, this boy with his chicken nuggets, and my supervisor’s eyes get wide, and she shakes her head and mouths ‘sandwich.’ I had to take away his hot meal and give him a cheese sandwich and throw the other food away because he either didn’t have money in his account or forgot money,” she tells the Observer-Reporter newspaper. “He’s being charged the same for the sandwich and I’m throwing it away anyway. My supervisor said, ‘Well don’t let the child see you throw it away.’ That isn’t the point,” she said.

A post she made on Facebook zipped around the Internet, forcing the school district to respond that part of the story is missing.

“The policy says that if a paid lunch student has more than $25 in unpaid debts, then they get a sandwich lunch with fruit or side and a milk or beverage. It still meets the daily dietary needs requirements for a student,” the district’s business manager said.

But the cafeteria worker said that’s not the point. The public humiliation punishes the student for the sins of a parent.

“I grew up poor and that shame and humiliation of growing up like that, I know what it’s like. The other students are going to think, ‘Well what’s he doing with bread instead of what I have?’ It’s a shame because they’re still charging the same price but denying them the choice of a regular meal,” Koltiska said.

The district says since it adopted the policy, the number of overdrawn accounts had dropped.

The Washington Post says since Koltiska resigned, inmates at a nearby prison have volunteered to donate their food so the kids from poorer families can eat hot meals.